The Fredericksburg City Council has approved an ordinance to prevent litter through a 5-cent fee on disposable plastic bags provided at grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores. Most of the revenue must be used for city programs to reduce litter and pollution, fund education efforts to reduce waste, clean up the environment, and provide free reusable bags to people in state and federal food assistance programs including SNAP and WIC. The fee would not apply to bags used for some items, including ice cream, meat, and fish.
Litter from bags and other plastics is an ever-present problem in the Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay. Similar fees have been shown to reduce plastic bag usage up to 70 percent in Washington, D.C., resulting in two-thirds of residents reporting seeing less litter. Virginia localities could not adopt similar fees until this year, when legislation passed in the General Assembly empowered them to do so. So far, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, and Roanoke have all adopted bag fees.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Grassroots Coordinator Gabby Troutman issued this statement.
“By encouraging people to switch to reusable bags, Fredericksburg just took an important step towards a more beautiful city and healthier Rappahannock River. We’ve all seen plastic bags littering roads, city streets, parks, and riverbanks. This litter isn’t just an eyesore, it also costs us money. Virginia spends millions every year in roadway litter cleanup costs, while litter harms the tourism economy and threatens fisheries.
“Plastic bags often break down into microplastics once they enter our waterways, and a horrifying 98 percent of water samples in the Chesapeake Bay currently contain microplastics. These ubiquitous microplastics threaten oysters, fish, and other marine life that eat them or become entangled.
“We hope other cities and counties in Virginia follow in Fredericksburg’s footsteps by encouraging the use of reusable bags through a small fee on single-use plastic bags.”